Yet another faux pas

I thought my latest faux pas might amuse some of you.

We had a visit, just after Christmas, from some new neighbours who wanted to introduce themselves to us. Michel’s metier is to travel incognito around France testing restaurants for an organisation (not Michelin). Corinne, his wife, is a retired concert pianist. What an interesting couple!

Michel looked at the corner of the room where I have a basket of logs for the fire standing just below the TV set. He asked me if I used French or English oak. I launched into a long story in my impeccable (???) French and explained how, for five years running, I went out each winter chopping down oak trees in the local woods and carrying them back to a trailer and bringing them home and then, when I moved house, re-transporting them, and we still have enough wood left for a few years yet.

He looked at me with his mouth open for a while and I thought perhaps he had not understood a word of my rather rambling story. Then the penny dropped he said “Non, non, non, pas chêne. Je vous ai demandé quelle chaîne vous regardiez en français ou en anglais ? “


Sounds like that would have been a tough one to discern! The two words: chêne ou chaîne, sound so similar!! Especially when both topics are in close proximity. Cheers.

We used to have our wood delivered by an elderly man and his wife. He turned up once, unloaded his trailer, and told me the wood was “young”. At least that was what I heard first “jeune” in a very strong Tarn accent. I thought that didn’t make much sense and realised it was “chêne” that he was saying.

Many Burgundians, especially rural ones, swallow their words and it is really difficult to follow.

And of course, featuring millions of times in my world over many many years, chien, and even more so chienne. I have almost given in and treated most dogs as female as my pronunciation of the male version seems to attract so many puzzled looks. Also it seems to my ear that most people, especially here in the SW, sound as if they are saying chiennes or chene, when they are really saying chien. :astonished:

When we first met our neighbour, an agriculteur with an excellent accent du sud, he recommended a restaurant by the river, with an enormous 2 metre dog. Knowing the disposition of many of the local farm dogs, we gave it a wide berth for a long time, until one day we ventured down there and discovered it was a very impressive ancient and majestic oak tree. :laughing:

Very good. The poor man must have been bewildered during your monologue. Though we have do have two types of oak down here, the chêne vert and the other one (memory failure) which is deciduous. I’ve zapped most of them because of the annual avalanche of leaves.